So, you have a behavior problem with your dog, and you’d like my help.
Of course! But first... let’s talk about me.
I have a terrible memory. As I get older, I’ve resorted to using little mental tricks, like childhood jingles and catchy acronyms, to help me remember things. For instance, say I can’t recall the name of a certain tall, gallopy breed of dog. Helpfully, my mind starts playing the ‘Scooby-Dooby-Doo-Where-Are-You?!’ theme, and just like that... I remember! This small pony I’m looking at is called a Great Dane.
Now... back to you. When it comes to dog training and solving behavior problems, the hardest thing to remember is what all your options are. Luckily, there's a little mental trick you can use to help you sort them all out, and here it is: a super catchy acronym we use at Riverdog, called E.M.T./C.P.R.
You can think of it as “I am an E.M.T. and I’m going to perform C.P.R. on my dog’s problem!”
Just to be clear, this technique does not actually involve performing CPR on your dog. Or on Cesar Millan, Victoria Stillwell, or anyone else. What it DOES do is help you remember a list of potential steps you can take to fix, compromise, or live with your dog's issues. Here’s what it stands for:
E - Eliminate the Cause
M – Manage the Environment
T – Train an Incompatible Behavior
C – Change the Subject
P – Provide a Better Alternative
R – Reinforce or Redirect the Habit
Let’s take a common problem – Dog Jumps Up on Furniture When You Are Away – and use the EMT/CPR approach to solving it.
E – Eliminate the Cause. You could throw away (eliminate) all the furniture in your house, thus leaving your pet with nothing on which to jump. Solves the behavior problem, for sure, but creates another one (divorce, sore bottom, for instance) for you. Probably not the best solution.
M – Manage the Environment. You could simply shut the door (manage access) to all rooms in which there are furniture pieces that are off-limits to your dog. Or, you could crate your pet while you are away. Managing the environment means not giving your pet access to the places in which he/she could misbehave, and in a lot of cases, this is an easy, acceptable solution.
T – Train an Incompatible Behavior. You might ask for a Down-Stay in the rooms with furniture, and reward it heavily and consistently. Your dog cannot Down and Stay on the floor and get up on the furniture at the same time – they are incompatible. This solution takes a high degree of owner commitment, but works well and if done from puppyhood, forms a solid, mannerly habit.
C – Change the Subject. You can give your pet something else to think about besides jumping up on the bed for a quiet nap when you are away. You might give a lovely, juicy bone or treat puzzle to your pet as you leave. Most dogs will chew on or play with bones and treats on the floor, rather than the sofa, and this is enough to keep many pets on the ground until their owners return.
P – Provide a Better Alternative. Most people have a tremendous amount of success by simply providing their pet a comfy cozy dog bed of their own. Don’t skimp here, though – your alternative has to be better IN YOUR DOG’S MIND than the couch. You can also help this along by making the furniture a lot less attractive: place bubble wrap, upside-down plastic floor runners, or double stick tape on the furniture cushions where your dog likes to lay. Most pets come around quickly, as comfy cozy dog beds are nearly always preferred over sticky, poppy, pokey sofa cushions.
R – Reinforce or Redirect the Habit. Admiring and rewarding the moments when your dog is in the room but not on the furniture is huge: “Good OFF, Rover. Good boy.” And redirecting your pet if a mistake is made is just as important: “Rover, OFF the couch. No, OFF. Good boy.” Don’t be afraid to redirect the habit firmly – just understand how to do it effectively. Dogs will work for a whole lotta ‘Good.’ And a whole lessa ‘No!’
Whether you are a real E.M.T. (Emergency Medical Technician), or don’t know C.P.R. from N.P.R., you can still use the EMT/CPR acronym to help your dog or puppy become an easier, lovelier member of the family. And as always, if you need help, you can always come down to Riverdog and get our advice….
...Behavior Evaluations are always (remember?!) free.